By Melissa Alvarado Sierra | Published on March 31, 2023

A Blue Lagoon Iceland vacation had been on my bucket list for ages. It's on everyone's bucket list, really. And even though it's now one of the top travel destinations in the world, when I landed on this fabled and underpopulated Nordic island during my Iceland cruise adventure, I found that it still feels like a well-kept secret wonderland. Floating close to the crown of the globe, Iceland is a place covered with the extraordinary. Icelandic wild horses careen over black sand dotted with droplets of blue-tinted icebergs, perfect rainbows and flowers frame the impossibly tall waterfalls, and rejuvenating warm water sprouts from the volcanic terrain creating steamy milky pools. Iceland quickly made me feel like a tiny speckle enveloped by a vast nirvana where nature felt unreal.

Iceland is remote and largely underdeveloped; at the same time, it's beaming with a rich cultural life. I learned that an Iceland vacation means visiting a destination made out of legends — I'm talking Viking mythology, Nobel Prize-winning literature and spine-tingling music that points to the natural world and youthful triumph. This is the transfixing backdrop of an island populated by some of the friendliest and warmest people I have ever encountered during my travels around the world. A place so magical, it's impossible to conjure with only photos or words. You just have to see it to believe it, and when you do, its beauty might water your eyes.

Dreaming In Blue

As soon as I boarded my Iceland cruise, I knew I had to visit the Blue Lagoon first on a shore excursion. I wanted to experience the tranquility of the warm geothermal seawaters of this incredible retreat of the volcanic earth. While I could have hiked to more far-flung pools and enjoyed them for free (it's possible to find several in one day thanks to my map from the Iceland tourism company), the Blue Lagoon's size, amenities and spa concept enticed me much more. My goal was to go deep into relaxation and rejuvenation with ease.

The Blue Lagoon is found in a black-lava field and is filled with superheated seawater from the Svartsengi Resource Park. The water in the pool is a light blue because it contains rich blue-green algae and when blended with the mineral salts and silica mud, it creates an amazingly effective treatment for the skin. But the waters were first geothermal, meaning they came from deep within the volcanic earth and didn't contain all the minerals and algae because it wasn't yet bioactive. When the liquid reached the raw climate of the Blue Lagoon, something incredible took place. As the water came in contact with the arctic environment and the volcanic elements, a remarkable ecosystem consisting of silica, minerals and microalgae was born. The combination of all these forces created powerful bioactive waters, a resource of restorative therapy.
Some say the hot waters hold extraordinary healing powers, and locals have been visiting the area since the early 1980s looking to regenerate their bodies, minds and souls. To this day, they say the place is magical. A doctor from Reykjavik is responsible for starting the Blue Lagoon Limited in 1992 to conduct scientific research into the bioactive properties of the waters. A few years later, he was able to confirm the nourishing benefits of the seawater and launched a skin care line. The spa facility was then opened in 1999, officially sharing the healing powers of the lagoon with the world.
The Blue Lagoon is found in a black-lava field and is filled with superheated seawater from the Svartsengi Resource Park. The water in the pool is a light blue because it contains rich blue-green algae and when blended with the mineral salts and silica mud, it creates an amazingly effective treatment for the skin.

The Soaking Ritual

Before arriving, make sure you have a reservation. People from around the world travel to Iceland solely for the Blue Lagoon — it's one of the top things to do in Iceland and can be booked up quickly, especially during the high season. The cost depends on the package you choose. I picked the affordable Comfort package, which includes the entrance, a mud mask, towels and one drink of choice for $69 USD. Other packages include wine, a bathrobe and even private suites with unlimited access to the lagoon's spa retreat. After booking, I headed to the lagoon, which is about 40 minutes from Reykjavik, the capital. It's easy to get to if you cruise to Iceland and rent a car, and I highly recommend stopping here on your travels. There's nothing better than melting into the hot waters of the lagoon after a long day — or days — of traveling.
When I arrived, I was given a wristband and was taken to a changing room and shown my private locker. The wristband was also my payment method for any extra drinks or food while on the lagoon's premises, which meant I didn't have to carry my wallet around with me. I was provided with a towel and was told to apply conditioner and leave it in to protect my hair from the high levels of silica in the water. Luckily, showers were equipped with showering gel, shampoo and conditioner, free of charge. I put my swimsuit and flip-flops on (those are also available for rent), removed all my jewelry to protect it from any mineral damage and headed for the hot pool.
How hot is it? Perfectly hot. The pool's water temperature fluctuates, but it's usually around a cozy 39 degrees Celsius or 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The water in the Blue Lagoon was more pleasant than the hotter river waters in the wild. It was cold outside, but I quickly entered the giant pool and allowed the calming warm waters to cover my body. I pulled my hair up in a bun and decided to float for a little while. There I was in one of the wonders of the world, surrounded by black volcanic rocks while submerged in hot blue water. I quickly reached a meditative state as I harmonized with the scenery and the pool, knowing every drop had come straight from the earth. I was hoping to heal weary muscles and other ailments in the heavenly lagoon. I could feel the soft silica beneath my feet and the rich warm water caressing my back. I also paid attention to the sounds the liquid made as I moved my arms and legs, and I stared at the arctic sky and the mossy lava rocks encircling me.

After floating for a while, I decided to take a break to drink water to keep my body hydrated and get a mud mask to go deeper into my rejuvenation treatment. The mud is said to soothe the skin, and it's even been proven to treat psoriasis. I apply the gray mud to my face, arms and legs and let it sink in before heading back to the lagoon. I realize that while it's a lot of fun to be there, the adventure is also helping me heal. Very few attractions can gift travelers with this kind of experience. I realized that natural steam can open up the pores, which meant that my skin was absorbing the minerals from the water more effectively. I touched my skin to see if it felt any different after an hour of soaking and was surprised to find it soft and supple. My muscles started to relax and tension I didn't know I had started to leave my body. The locals were right, this place was magical. For a moment, I dreamed of living in Iceland to treat myself with the waters more often. But I couldn't complain. I was there and I was floating during a dreamy Blue Lagoon Iceland vacation, and that was more than enough.

After a couple of hours of soaking, I knew it was time for photos. The Blue Lagoon is one of the most stunningly photogenic places on earth — the ethereal atmosphere, subtle light and otherworldly ambiance are a feast for the eyes. My backgrounds were wild and plenty: rugged lava, steaming waters, bright green moss and the arctic horizon all adorning my photos. The lagoon's dreamy tributaries, trails and corridors are great spots for selfies or group photos. I sauntered back and forth looking for the best angles. Then, I took my time at the viewing deck for the impressive vistas of the lagoon and the moss-covered fields of lava. Finally, I applied a fresh layer of silica mud to my face and took various pictures of me in the lagoon, the steam framing my face.

Then, I left the therapeutic pool and headed to the legendary skin care store, which opened in 1995. The beautiful and airy store is filled with products using the minerals, silica and algae found in the geothermal seawater, a blend that promotes radiance and well-being. I found that all products are 100% natural and that they're especially effective in the treatment of skin conditions like psoriasis and other atopic skin disorders. A clinic nurse studied my skin and made several recommendations and provided guidance on how to use the products. I bought a jar of volcanic mud to bring a piece of Iceland home.

Steaming Away In The Blue Lagoon

After an extraordinary day of relaxation and rejuvenation, it was time to eat before setting sail onto my next adventure. Luckily, when you visit Blue Lagoon Iceland, you find that it's more than just hot water. It's also home to four different dining experiences, including the casual Café, serving snacks and refreshing beverages; the Spa Restaurant, featuring gourmet dishes at the Retreat Spa; the Moss Restaurant, with an impressive Michelin-recommended menu; and the Lava Restaurant, serving culinary classics with views of the volcanic surroundings. I decided to visit Lava for its savory Icelandic cuisine based on organic and local ingredients. I started with the arctic char with Icelandic wasabi, followed by eryngii and couscous, and then finished with a local favorite: Astarpungar, the sweet golden donuts fried to perfection and topped with mango chocolate mousse, vanilla ice cream and salted caramel. I left with soft skin, a relaxed mind and body, and a belly full of local delicacies. I promised myself I would come back to the Blue Lagoon in the very near future. My experience confirmed that this is definitely one of the best things to do in Iceland.

Written By

Melissa Alvarado Sierra is a journalist, author and sailor. She's been exploring coastal destinations around the world for more than a decade, always searching for authentic experiences to share with her adventurous readers. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The New York Times, Lonely Planet, Orion Magazine, AFAR, USA Today and others.

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The majestic arctic sky seen from the Blue Lagoon.
The majestic arctic sky seen from the Blue Lagoon.

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